Editor’s note: Last Thursday, Judith Miller penned a column for The Wall Street Journal in which she accused the new film Fair Game of pushing “untruths” in its telling of the outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame. Miller described the film, which focuses on the relationship of Plame and husband Joe Wilson, as “brilliantly acted,” but a “gross distortion of a complicated political saga.” She challenges seven of what she calls the film’s “untruths”; among them, claims that Plame played a “key role” in the CIA’s counterproliferation division, charged with gathering evidence on Iraq’s WMD programs, and that Plame was involved in missions to provide safe havens to Iraqi scientists. Miller also takes issue with a subplot in the film in which Plame, played by Naomi Watts, recruits an Iraqi-American woman to visit her scientist brother in Iraq, where is working on the country’s WMD program. CJR approached Fair Game director Doug Liman (Swingers, Mr and Mrs Smith, The Bourne Identity) for comment. He wrote back with this response to Miller’s piece.
Judith Miller demonstrated in her recent WSJ story about my film, Fair Game, the same cavalier attitude towards the facts that led to her departure from The New York Times in disgrace. And we should never forget that Scooter Libby outed Valerie Plame to Miller in June 2003—more than two weeks before Richard Armitage outed Plame to Novak. Somehow Miller neglected to mention that in her op-ed piece. But she also forgot about that before—in her early grand jury testimony—until she was forced to come clean about it in a subsequent grand jury appearance and under oath at Libby’s trial. Miller’s belated testimony helped convict her “source” Libby, but not until she did everything she could, as a forceful proponent of the war in Iraq, to avoid telling the truth to the American public.
And so here we go again.
Judith Miller writes that her supposed anonymous sources told her that Valerie Plame did not play a “key role” in the CIA’s effort to penetrate Iraq’s presumed WMD program. In truth, Valerie Plame was head of operations for the CIA’s Joint Task Force on Iraq (JTFI). My sources: former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet and U.S. attorney Pat Fitzgerald.
Valerie’s specific actions as head of operations for the JTFI were and still are classified. Valerie Plame, a loyal intelligence officer from a military family, has always honored and continues to honor the secrecy agreement she signed when she joined the Agency more than twenty-five years ago. As filmmakers, we did the best job we could to piece together her activities in covert CIA operations specializing in nuclear counter-proliferation. This is not easy, especially since Valerie was a NOC, a form of deep cover operative with no official ties to the U.S. government. To be drawn into debating what this deep cover operative may or may not have done is to miss the big picture—this was no “glorified secretary” who was outed by the White House. Far from it.
Special Counsel Fitzgerald submitted a memorandum to the district court in the Libby trial spelling out in detail Valerie’s undercover role overseas, covert status, and senior positions at the CIA leading counter-proliferation teams and searching for WMD in Iraq. It is disgraceful that Miller and others like her continue to demean Valerie and the dedicated women and men who serve our country as operations officers and risk their lives to keep armchair warriors like Miller safe from harm.
Regarding the Iraqi scientists that are the focus of a sub-plot in Fair Game, Judith Miller seems to blur the line between opinions and indisputable fact. This much we know to be fact: the CIA made a criminal referral because of Plame’s outing. I doubt that the CIA and its director George Tenet—someone who bent over backwards to protect the Bush Administration—would have allowed that to occur if the consequences to national security weren’t serious and the damage to intelligence operations severe.
Obviously WMDs remain a sore subject for Miller, who wrote many erroneous stories that badly misled the American public about their existence in Iraq in 2003. Fair Game doesn’t much focus on the WMDs, except to recount an episode showing the dangers of politicized intelligence, which is now common wisdom on both sides of the political aisle. Indeed, Fair Game doesn’t even state an opinion about the war itself, however disastrous its consequences are in hindsight. Rather, Fair Game is about the president of the United States lying to the American people, and what happened to the people who challenged him. The wagons were circled around the president of the United States on the trust issue.